City of Palms Park negotiations anything but easy

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz
Published: Updated:

A city and organization have not come to an agreement that would start the redevelopment of an area known as an eyesore to many.

The issues behind the City of Palms Park have been well documented.

The City of Fort Myers is being sued by the developer that came in second, the United Soccer League, claiming the city was biased and prejudiced while picking Pitch Prime.

At the last city council meeting, the city manager proposed that the council reject all of the City of Palms proposals.

Monday night, WINK News hopes to hear an update on those negotiations from the city manager.

It’s hard to tell until we get the official update if it’s going well, but a spokesperson for Pitch Prime is optimistic. While Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson doesn’t want the park to go unused much longer, he says it’s crucial that the decision made Monday night is done carefully.

The journey to selecting Pitch Prime LLC as the developer for the City of Palms Park hasn’t been a walk in the park.

“This is very dishonorable on us for a city,” said Councilwoman Watkins Brown during a meeting.

The group that came in second place, the United Soccer League, has filed a lawsuit against the city after complaining that councilman Liston Bochette and Fred Burson broke the rules by giving scores of zero instead of one to five when determining the winning bid for the park.

“I understand USL feels that they were wrong during this process. They have every right to access the court system to get relief. I wish that we could work through this and avoid the courts. Because that slows things down and that’s costly,” said Anderson.

In February, city manager Marty Lawing proposed that the council reject all the proposals and start fresh, but the council chose to stick with Pitch Prime.

“Not only is it costing the taxpayers money every year,” said Anderson, “but this is a critical piece of midtown, and if we don’t do this right, we’re either going to set midtown up to be a problem for years to come, or we’re gonna establish midtown in such a way that the citizens will benefit from these decisions for decades.”

Bill Gramer, the spokesperson for Pitch Prime, says negotiations have been going well.

“We’re definitely getting closer to resolution of this and get a good deal in place for the city,” said Gramer.

He says there are big plans for the park.

“We’re still looking for a 2025 MLS next pro season start,” said Gramer. “Pickleball, paddle ball that’s going to be installed early in the process as well.”

The city council will hear some of those plans Monday night as the city manager gives an update on negotiations. Anderson said he would only accept the best offer.

“I’m looking for a proposal that’s got to be absolutely the best deal for the citizens of the city. If it’s anything less than that, I’m gonna be hard-pressed to support it,” said Anderson.

The council meeting began Monday afternoon, but WINK News does not expect to hear about the park negotiations until later in the night.

If the council is not satisfied with the update, it could go back and take another look at the United Soccer League, the runner-up in Fort Myers.

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